Now the real question is, are we willing to return to sender unopened those negative forces sent our way? I am! Finally I am! Here is how you can do it, at least according to Lori Deschene in her blog 10 Ways to Deal with Negative or Difficult People . Thank you Lori.
1. Resist the urge to judge or assume.
When you think negative thoughts, it comes out in your body language. Someone
prone to negativity may feel all too tempted to mirror that. Try coming at them
with the positive mindset you wish they had. Expect the best in them. You never
know when you might be pleasantly surprised.
2. Dig deeper, but stay out of the hole.
It’s always easier to offer someone compassion if you try to understand where
they’re coming from. But that can’t completely justify bad behavior. If you show
negative people you support their choice to behave badly, you give them no real
incentive to make a change (which they may actually want deep down).
It may help to repeat this in your head when you deal with them: “I understand your pain. But I’m most helpful if I don’t feed into it.” This might help you approach them with both kindness and firmness so they don’t bring you down with them.
3.Maintain a positive boundary.
Some people might tell you to visualize a bright white light around you to maintain a positive space when other people enter it with negativity. This doesn’t actually work for me because I respond better to ideas in words than visualizations. So I tell myself this, “I can only control the positive space I create around myself.”
Then when I interact with this person, I try to do several things.
- Protect the positive space around me. When their negativity is too strong to protect it, I need to walk away
- Help them feel more positive, not act more positive–which is more likely to create the desired result.
- Disarm their negativity, even if just for now.
- Temper your emotional response.
Negative people often gravitate toward others who react strongly–people who easily offer compassion or get outraged or offended. I suspect this gives them a little light in the darkness of their inner world–a sense that they’re not floating alone in their own anger or sadness.
People remember and learn from what you do more than what you say. If you feed into the situation with emotions, you’ll teach them they can depend on you for a reaction. It’s tough not to react because we’re human, but it’s worth practicing.
- Once you’ve offered a compassionate ear for as long as you can, respond as
calmly as possible with a simple line of fact.
- Question what you’re getting out of it.
Like I mentioned above, we often get something out of relationships with
negative people. Get real honest with yourself: have you fallen into a caretaker
role because it makes you feel needed? Have you maintained the relationship so you can gossip about this person in a holier-than-thou way with others? Do you have some sort of stake in keeping the things the way they are?
Questioning yourself helps you change the way you respond–which is really all
you can control. You can’t make someone think, feel, or act differently. You can
be as kind as possible or as combative as possible, and still not change reality
for someone else. All you can control is what you think and do–and then do your best to help them without hurting yourself.
- Remember the numbers.
Research shows that people with negative attitudes have significantly higher
rates of stress and disease. Someone’s mental state plays a huge role in their
physical health. If someone’s making life difficult for people around them, you
can be sure they’re doing worse for themselves.
What a sad reality, that someone has so much pain inside them they have to
act out just to feel some sense of relief–even if that relief comes from getting
a rise out of people. When you remember how much a difficult person is
suffering, it’s easier to stay focused on minimizing negativity, as opposed to
- Don’t take it personally, but know that sometimes it is personal.
Conventional wisdom suggests that you should never take things personally
when you deal with a negative person. I think it’s a little more complicated
than that. You can’t write off everything someone says about you just because
the person is insensitive or tactless. Even an abrasive person may have a valid
point. Try to weigh their comments with a willingness to learn.
Accept that you don’t deserve the excessive emotions in someone’s tone, but
weigh their ideas with a willingness to learn. Some of the most useful lessons
I’ve learned came from people I wished weren’t right.
- Act instead of just reacting.
Oftentimes we wait until someone gets angry or depressed before we try to
buoy their spirits. If you know someone who seems to deal with difficult
thoughts or feelings often (as demonstrated in their behavior), don’t wait for a
situation to help them create positive feelings.
- Maintain the right relationship based on reality as it is.
I’ve recently realized the best I can do is accept her as she
is, let her know I believe in her ability to be happy, and then give her space
to make the choice.
I’ve learned you can’t always save the world, but you can make the world a better place by working on yourself–by becoming self aware tapping into your compassion, and protecting your positive space. You may even help negative people by fostering a sense of peace within yourself that their negativity can’t pierce.